Bill Cosby: Hello, Friend: To Ennis With Love

Producer Bill Cosby devotes this session, recorded on various 1993 dates and previously unreleased, to the memory of his son, Ennis, whose familiar greeting before his tragic death was, “Hello, my friend.” This is the fourth Verve album Cosby has produced and with its loose, groove-oriented feel, expert teamwork and exceptional solos, it may be his straightahead best. The eight-tune session (includes one Cosby original) features an octet formed of shakers-and-movers Lester Bowie and Phillip Harper (trumpets), Bobby Watson (alto sax), Craig Handy (tenor sax), Cedar Walton (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Billy Higgins (drums) and Steve Kroon (percussion).

No jam session mentality here. Section work is tight and tidy, and soloing, dramatic.

Tunes range from rousing hard-swingers such as Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” and Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance,” to a samba-ized version of “Laura,” a stirring interpretation of Victor Young’s “Stella By Starlight,” and more engaging numbers.

Everyone plays exceptionally well, but add points for Bowie’s quirky trumpet bursts and chatter which add spice to this junket.